I have recently hinted that my recent field work in the Pyrenees was augmented by exceptionally good food. For my Ph.D. I did field work in eastern China, and while in general I thought the food was also quite good (can’t say the same for the wine but that’s OK), there were some things I was a little suspect of. Baozi, little steamed buns filled with pork, sweet bean paste, or nothing, were pretty standard both at breakfast and lunch (and pictured above.) I considered them pretty harmless, especially in constrast to the Thousand Year Eggs. That was until I read this article. In case you don’t want to link to the article, a Chinese television crew found that at least some baozi makers will substitute up to 60% of the wheat or rice flour dough with cardboard softened with industrial solvents. Yes, you read that correctly, cardboard softened with industrial solvents. Allegedly the buyers couldn’t tell the difference. In my experience, most baozi are pretty bland. To be fair I didn’t have the pork ones (I’m a vegetarian), but the sweet bean and plain ones were not that memorable. Although my adviser and I did devise a genius plan to make them marketable in the US by stuffing them with cheese, beer battering and deep frying them and then serving them with a ranch dipping sauce…….I digress. My point is that even though they are not the most flavorful things in the world I am shocked that 1) someone would think of this, 2) someone would actually follow through on this once they had the terrible idea 3) no one could tell the difference, and 4) the folks at Hostess didn’t think of this one first.
As a kind of side note, I also just [finally] finished Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I will write a proper review, but suffice it to say it is an excellent book, and it got me thinking about all kinds of things. In the last part of the book, Pollan describes a dinner he prepared almost entirely made of food he collected (foraged, hunted, gathered, etc..) from the forest. I wonder if cardboard baozi count as a forest food?